The last couple days have been pretty wonderful on the intellectual engagement front–none of the counters having anything to do with my actual classes, funnily enough. :P

1. Learning in a Globalizing World: Language Acquisition, Cultural Awareness, and the Roles of (Neuro)Science in International Education Policies and Practices

First, yes, that title is quite a mouthful. Second, that’s the official title of a course being offered this fall (in Ed School terminology, it’s AH-108). Third, I’m not actually registered for that course. So why am I talking about it then?

So, a friend of mine in the IEP program has been raving about how great this class is all semester and, last Monday, invited me to an open seminar that the prof was hosting. The open seminar was on the growing quantofrenia pandemic in policymaking–ie. the increasing tendency for bilateral and multilateral international organizations (like the OECD, IMF, World Bank, UNESCO etc.) to rely too much on quantitative knowledge to inform education policymaking. Professor Bruno della Chiesa spoke really eloquently about the implications this has for marginalized voices and for how we truly engage with issues in the educational sphere. Or even on a more basic level, when organizations get so wrapped up in this feverish “numbers, numbers, numbers” game, they fail to understand that the numbers aren’t actually prescriptive–what we do with the numbers is more revealing about our normative assumptions about education and that’s what we need to be thinking through more. Also, statistics without context are rather useless–if you don’t understand the historical, sociopolitical, and cultural context in which you’re operating, running a data mining mission on student enrollment numbers or student achievement in mathematics does not actually tell you much about where you need to go further.

Since I really enjoyed this open seminar, I sat in on the actual class this Friday, which was great. The prof is amazing and we had a fascinating discussion about language, power, the internationalization of English as “globish” and the process of a language becoming a lingua franca. I’ll definitely continue to sit in on the class as an auditor for the rest of the semester–I love being in this intellectual space of discourses of power in the context of language and globalization.

2. Information Literacy Breakfast Discussion

Two summers ago, I interned with the Public Learning Media Lab, a nonprofit that builds freely available open source web apps for teachers to teach information, math, and science literacy concepts. One of the co-founders is a TIE alum and we’ve continued to stay in touch and discuss a lot of the issues in the information literacy space. Currently, they’re working on engaging industry leaders, academics, and school leadership professionals to shape information literacy standards on a policy level–fascinating stuff!

In context of all this, Dave and I decided it would be great if we could get a couple people from industry as well as my peers at HGSE who are interested in these issues to get together and flesh out these issues… and so we did! Had a lovely breakfast discussion this morning with a small group and talked about teacher training and PD on information literacy (the challenges, the potential opportunities, and systemic shifts necessary) and about the need for an interdisciplinary and integrated approach to information literacy implementation at all levels of education. A couple interesting points that arose:

  • how do you incentivize teachers to include information literacy principles and design thinking (ie. teaching kids to identify the core problem, assessing the resources they have available, etc.) on top of all the content they need to teach any ways?
  • we need a paradigmatic shift in thinking about information literacy and 21st century skills in education–a silo-d library sciences alone approach to teaching kids these basic skills will not suffice. Students need to understand how to search, analyze, and evaluate information and produce knowledge in every discipline and we can no longer assume that “some other class” will teach them those skills. Math needs to lay the groundwork. So does history. So does science.
  • part of the pushback on the teacher part is often times fear–what happens when you test today’s teachers on their information literacy competencies? Not everyone knows how to deal with the barrage of information available online, let alone how to teach others how to sift through it all. It’s much easier to focus on already-validated sources of knowledge. But now, since that quality-control process does not apply (or works differently, at least) to the vast majority of content students encounter on a daily basis, we need to be imbuing content-based instruction with that critical thinking lens as it pertains to validity, credibility, and evaluation. In the real world, students are not going to get board-certified textbook-content for 99% of the information they consume.

Interesting conversation and it was just great to sit down and flesh out these issues in a more substantive manner than we can usually get to in some of my survey-level classes this semester.

3. Grinnellians at HSGE

Had an absolutely *wonderful* chat with a grinnellian a the Ed School on Friday–chatted about all sorts of things, including our frustrations with the process of education policymaking, micro vs. macro level changes in education, time perspective, and the role of cultural capital in literacy development. A month or so ago, I had the opportunity to connect up with another HGSE grinnellian, and had a lovely talk about careers in higher education. I’m so thankful to be able to call upon this wonderful network of smart, interesting, quirky, and curious people, and really do value these roots and ideals of social justice, community, and intellectual curiosity that I share with grinnellians, whether I’ve known them for a while or if we’ve just met.

This graduate school adventure has really been phenomenally rewarding–all these fantastic conversations and connections really are food for my soul.

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